Thursday, November 10, 2011

Living Well In Four Steps???

James Altucher offers the following four steps to be happy and successful or the luckiest guy on the planet.  I like the balanced approach, but I am always skeptical of anything that's boiled down to 4 easy steps.  He does of course have a lot of sub-sets.

THE DAILY PRACTICE

A)     Physical – being in shape. Doing some form of exercise. In 2003 I woke up at 5am every day and from 5-6am I played “Round the World” on a basketball court overlooking the Hudson River. Every day (except when it rained). Trains would pass and people at 5:30am would wave to me out the window. Now, I try to do yoga every day. But its hard. All you need to do, minimally, is exercise enough to break a sweat for 10 minutes. So about 20-30 minutes worth of exercise a day. This is not to get “ripped” or “shredded”. But just to be healthy. You can’t be happy if you aren’t healthy. Also, spending this time helps your mind better deal with its daily anxieties. If you can breathe easy when your body is in pain then its easier to breathe during difficult situations. Here’s other things that are a part of this but a little bit harder:
  1.     Wake up by 4-5am every day.
  2.     Go to sleep by 8:30-9. (Good to sleep 8 hours a night!)
  3.     No eating after 5:30pm. Can’t be happy if indigested at night.
B) Emotional– If someone is a drag on me, I cut them out. If someone lifts me up, I bring them closer. Nobody is sacred here. When the plane is going down, put the oxygen mask on your face first. Family, friends, people I love – I always try to be there for them and help. But I don’t get close to anyone bringing me down. This rule can’t be broken. Energy leaks out of you if someone is draining you. And I never owe anyone an explanation. Explaining is draining.

Another important rule: always be honest. Its fun. Nobody is honest anymore and people are afraid of it. Try being honest for a day (without being hurtful). Its amazing where the boundaries are of how honest one can be. Its much bigger than I thought. A corollary of this is: I never do anything I don’t want to do. Like I NEVER go to weddings.

C)      Mental – Every day I write down ideas. I write down so many ideas that it hurts my head to come up with one more. Then I try to write down five more. The other day I tried to write 100 alternatives kids can do other than go to college. I wrote down eight, which I wrote about here. I couldn’t come up with anymore. Then the next day I came up with another 40. It definitely stretched my head. No ideas today? Memorize all the legal 2 letter words for Scrabble. Translate the Tao Te Ching into Spanish. Need ideas for lists of ideas? Come up with 30 separate chapters for an “autobiography”. Try to think of 10 businesses you can start from home (and be realistic how you can execute them)? Give me 10 ideas of directions this blog can go in.  Think of 20 ways Obama can improve the country. List every productive thing you did yesterday (this improves memory also and gives you ideas for today).

The “idea muscle” atrophies within days if you don’t use it. Just like walking. If you don’t use your legs for a week, they atrophy. You need to exercise the idea muscle. It takes about 3-6 months to build up once it atrophies. Trust me on this.

D)  Spiritual. I feel that most people don’t like the word “spiritual”. They think it means “god”. Or “religion”. But it doesn’t.  I don’t know what it means actually. But I feel like I have a spiritual practice when I do one of the following:

  1.  Pray (doesn’t matter if I’m praying to a god or to dead people or to the sun or to a chair in front of me – it just means being thankful. And not taking all the credit, for just a few seconds of the day).
  2.  Meditate – Meditation for more than a few minutes is hard. It’s boring. Here I give tips for 60 second meditations. You can also meditate for 15 seconds by really visualizing what it would be like meditate for 60 minutes. Here’s a simple meditation: sit in a chair, keep the back straight, watch yourself breathe. If you get distracted, no problem. Just pull yourself back to your breath. Try it for 5 minutes. Then six.
  3.  Being grateful – I try to  think of everyone in my life I’m grateful for. Then I try to think of more people. Then more. Its hard.
  4.  Forgiving – I picture everyone who has done me wrong. I visualize gratefulness for them (but not pity).
  5.  Studying. If I read a spiritual text (doesn’t matter what it is: Bible, Tao Te Ching, anything Zen related, even inspirational self-help stuff, doesn’t matter) I tend to feel good. This is not as powerful as praying or meditating (it doesn’t train your mind to cut out the BS) but it still makes me feel good.

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